While tax season is the time to assess your earnings and owing, it’s also an optimal time for fraudsters looking to take advantage of those who owe the government money.
Don’t be surprised if there’s an increase of calls, e-mails or texts messages in the coming months from scammers. Here’s what to watch out for from some of the more common scams.
Type of scam: Phone call scam
How it happens: If the scam is through the phone, the call will often appear on the person’s phone under the name “Canada Revenue Agency”, with the actual phone number of the government agency. The caller will tell the person that they owe a certain amount of money and if it’s not transferred they will be arrested. They will often ask for bitcoin, which is challenging to trace, an e-transfer or a credit card number.
Robert Hudyma, an associate professor at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, says tax season is a prime time to target people, as its not uncommon for Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to contact those who have outstanding balances owned.
“Revenue Canada will pursue getting payments but they are by and large very professional and well behaved and never threaten anyone,” he tells Yahoo Canada News.
What victims do wrong: Those who have outstanding balances with CRA might panic and fall for the scams. However, the CRA will never threaten anyone or involve police to collect payments. They also don’t accept bitcoin or prepaid credit cards or gift cards.
“They actually have a lot of power and can control your bank accounts, so they don’t need to strong-arm people,” says Hudyma.
Paul Murphy, a senior communications advisor with the CRA says there are steps to take to verify the authenticity of a caller claiming to be from the CRA.
“Ask the officer who’s calling for their name and work office location, then hang up and call the CRA general inquiries telephone line and ask if there’s anything going on in my account, is there actual collections action and anyone trying to contact me and does this person work for you,” he says.
Type of scam: E-mail scams
How it happens: A victim will receive an e-mail, claiming to be from the CRA. The body of the e-mail will say that the person is due for a refund and in order to receive it, they must click on a link. The link will lead to another page, which asks for personal information such as social insurance number, or date of birth.
“We will never send you an e-mail asking you to click on a link to receive a refund,” says Murphy.
What victims do wrong: Some victims will fall prey to these e-mail, by clicking on the link and filling out the forms. They also might fall for e-mails that claim they have a transfer coming through Interac.
“CRA never pays out transfers or refunds through the Interact service,” says Murphy. “There are extremely limited circumstances when the CRA will send you an e-mail, and if they do, they’ll never send a link embedded in it.”
Type of scam: Text messages/SMS scams
How it happens: A text will be sent to the user’s phone, telling them the government of Canada owes them money.
“Under any circumstance, the CRA will not communicate with you through text message,” says Murphy.
What victims do wrong: Those who fall victim to this scam will click on a link and fill out the information on the form, which, similar to the e-mail scam, includes sensitive personal and financial information.
“That’s not information people should be providing over texts,” says Murphy.
Other things the CRA will never do the following:
Ask for personal information like a passport number, health card, or driver's license.
Ask for immediate payment through transactions like e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards.
Use text messages or any other instant messaging application to contact people.
Use fowl language or threats.
Threaten to arrest you or send police.